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Flowery Branch keeps holiday festival simple, old-fashioned

Town keeps events low-key, free and geared toward fun for children

POSTED: December 2, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Christmas season is finally here, and with decorating, event-planning and shopping galore, it is only a matter of time before budgets — and sanity — begin to wither.

Thankfully, the Flowery Branch community has put together an event that will give busy bees and wallets alike a breather.

Historic Downtown Flowery Branch hosts a Christmas Festival and Kids' Jingle Bell Roll 'n Stroll Saturday, and all events are free.

"We are putting on the Christmas festival in conjunction with the city of Flowery Branch, local merchants and churches - the scouts are handling the vendors," said Stacy Hall, festival chair for Flowery Branch Boy Scout Troop 228.

On top of the usual festivities, the Jingle Bell Roll 'n Stroll parade will have children showing off decorated bikes or trikes. The winner receives $75.

Although Flowery Branch usually has a large parade, budget constraints were going to minimize events and decorations. However, volunteers stepped forward to take up the slack.

"Even with budget constraints, we wanted this to happen," said Donna Chalmers of Fifth Row Center theater. "Janet Upchurch, owner of Sample Pleasures, asked me to help her. We brought some lovely candy cane and toy soldier decorations out of storage, came up with fresh events, assembled a team of local volunteers, and here we are."

Saturday's schedule includes Breakfast with Santa, the Main Street festival, a kids' parade, storytelling and more.

"It will be a good, old-fashioned, simple, non-tech display of holiday cheer," Chalmers said. "The children will go from place to place on Main and hear some of their favorite stories read aloud by actors and friends of the library. Every child will get a great goody bag. It's fun stuff."

Many local businesses are involved with the festival activities, including Flowery Branch United Methodist Church, host of Breakfast with Santa.

"We got involved early in the planning stages for this year's festival," the Rev. Jeff Ingram said. "The church will be the starting point for the parade, and we are also offering craft supplies to help decorate the kids bikes. We wanted to be involved because it is important for the church to be active and relevant in the community that it serves."

This is UMC's sixth year as host of Breakfast with Santa.

"The purpose of the breakfast itself is to help raise toys for the Methodist Children's Home and food for families that are in need from our community - we've found it to be a real blessing," Ingram said. "It also allows us a chance for families to come together and take a little break from the running around that the Christmas season tends to bring with it."

The event includes a pancake breakfast, crafts, photo with Santa and bike decorating. The cost is a donation of canned goods or an unwrapped gift for a needy child.

"I love how this time of year represents the true Grace of God. We are all given the gift of peace and the spirit of love. Christmas tends to bring out the good that is within us all," Ingram said.

Some of that good is seen through the volunteers who will pitch in to make the event special.

"I shall be reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Virginia Hale of Flowery Branch said. "The Grinch is a favorite of so many children and adults, including me.

"I support events at the Depot because they add to our sense of Community and are always a pleasure. The coordinators are putting together a wonderful festival which will get the holidays off to a happy start for everyone who attends," she said.

Another volunteer, Diane Graves, will be playing Mrs. Claus.

"I've never played this role before, but I think Mrs. Claus must be a very caring and efficient person to keep Santa going strong year after year," Graves said. "Think of cooking she does for all those elves!"

"I love the spirit of Christmas time and the good will it brings. We really need to take that to heart right now," Graves said "People attending this event should expect some of the things of Christmas past - storytelling, crafts, music and the fun of being in your very own parade."



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